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15 February 2011

Gerda Weissmann Klein: An Outstanding American By Choice

Posted by Alejandro Mayorkas

On February 15, 2011, in recognition of her life’s work, President Obama awarded Gerda Weissmann Klein the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in a White House ceremony.

Several weeks ago, on January 20, it was my distinct honor to meet Ms. Weissmann Klein and recognize her as an Outstanding American by Choice in a special naturalization ceremony at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.  The Outstanding American by Choice recognition is presented to naturalized U.S. citizens who have demonstrated their commitment to this country through civic participation, professional achievement, and responsible citizenship and commitment to the shared ideals that unite us as Americans.

Gerda Weissmann Klein is just such an individual.  She is a humanitarian, author, human rights activist, Holocaust survivor, and proud naturalized citizen.

Director Alejandro Mayorkas presents Gerda Weissmann Klein the Outstanding American by Choice (ABC) recognition

Director Alejandro Mayorkas presents Gerda Weissmann Klein the Outstanding American by Choice (ABC) recognition

Gerda Weissmann Klein endured concentration camps and a 350-mile death march in her native Poland to survive the World War II homeless, without family or friends.  But her outlook changed when she married U.S. Army Intelligence officer Kurt Klein, her liberator, and immigrated to the United States. Since becoming a citizen, she has dedicated her life to delivering a message of hope, inspiration, love, and humanity.  The film version of her autobiography, which chronicled her experiences during the war and coming to America, won the 1995 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.

Her foundation, the Gerda and Kurt Klein Foundation, promotes tolerance and community service through education programs and has reached more than 11 million students across the globe.

Gerda Weissmann Klein cherishes her American citizenship and the opportunities this country has given her. In that spirit she founded Citizenship Counts, a nonprofit organization with the mission to educate students on the tenets of citizenship, inspire their pride in being American, and encourage them to participate in their community.

Her inspiring charge to us all is best articulated through her own words:

America is a unique, diverse and wondrous country, comprised both of those who know its magnificence as their birthright, and others, like me, who are privileged to call our adopted country ‘our own.’ What we all share is a desire for our families to enjoy America’s boundless opportunities while extending to all our fellow citizens justice and the blessings and freedoms upon which the nation was founded.

For her efforts to foster tolerance, compassion, and understanding, and to promote an appreciation for the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, it was my privilege to recognize Gerda Weissmann Klein as an Outstanding American by Choice.

We at USCIS congratulate Gerda Weissman Klein for her remarkable lifelong achievements to community and country.

Ms. Weissmann Klein speaks about her work at the Outstanding American by Choice ceremony at the Mall of America

Ms. Weissmann Klein speaks about her work at the Outstanding American by Choice ceremony at the Mall of America

52 Comments:

At February 15, 2011 at 3:44:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations to Gerda Weissman Klein for her dedication to civil rights and preserving the integrity to help immigrants such as herself to be a positive role model to all Americans!

 
At February 15, 2011 at 3:47:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful woman!

Victoria Block

 
At February 15, 2011 at 3:49:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your post should allow us to share on facebook, twitter and such... it's nice to see some good news every once in a while! Thanks for posting this story! :-)

 
At February 15, 2011 at 4:01:00 PM EST , Anonymous Peter A. Brust said...

What a wonderful lady! Very inspiring, indeed! Congratulations!

 
At February 15, 2011 at 4:08:00 PM EST , Blogger Erica said...

Wonderful! I wish I would have known about the ceremony--I would have loved to see her speak.

 
At February 15, 2011 at 4:13:00 PM EST , Blogger Odette said...

Ms Weissmann klein: You are worth of every atom of love, appreciation and recognition. I feel that soundful recognition as it shook my bones. simply i am now 54 years of age and I can imagine the agony and the horrified death as well as hunger and fear and excuse me to say the paranoia of whom to trust around you; but still you are still blessed with the power of love and giving. Congratulations is not enough but a big Kiss.
Odette Gad (trying hard to be American citizen)

 
At February 15, 2011 at 4:14:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

THANKS VERY MUCH FOR YOUR CONCERN ,,AND I WOULD LIKE TO PROVIDE ME SOME HELP TO GAIN THE IMMIGRATION TO THE U.S.A
THANKS VERY MUCH AND BEST REGARDS.

 
At February 15, 2011 at 4:20:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations to you, Ms Weissmann. It is often said that where there is a will, there is always
a way. This is the zenith of your life accomplishment.
Yours, sets extraordinary example for upcoming generations to emulate.. Foundation ideals that make this nation, truly great.
Congratulations,one more time !!
Martin Atayo
Washington, DC 20013

 
At February 15, 2011 at 4:20:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulation and God bless you

 
At February 15, 2011 at 4:21:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

We all salute Ms Weissmann Klein for her outstanding work. It is heatnening to see her toil to make our world filled with compassion and love. Thank you for showing us the right way.
Tariq Ahmed, M.D.
Bellevue, WA

 
At February 15, 2011 at 4:23:00 PM EST , Blogger Hino said...

Thank you for Barak Obama! She deseved this since long ago....

 
At February 15, 2011 at 4:34:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an example that demonstrates what America is all about. A Nation should not merely be its Government, but its people. Let those near and far, foe or friend, see this in our heart and the fruit of our labor. Rev CM Torres--CA

 
At February 15, 2011 at 4:39:00 PM EST , Anonymous Richard Maney said...

Ms. Weissmann Klein is clearly deserving of this outstanding honor. I take pride that the USCIS has recognized the important contributions of our naturalized citizens.

 
At February 15, 2011 at 5:03:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is what I like about America;Even the new citizens feel at home and work hard for the glory of their new country. Congratulations to Ms.Weissmann for the award.

 
At February 15, 2011 at 5:15:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

this wonderful lady shown people the right way how should be all human kind ,thanks for america for recognition ,thanks for awarding those who deserved ,thanks particularly for america which is still opening widely arms for those who dream to be one day a citizen like the president him self cos he not a native ,and all the americans moved since ages from europe and other countries,with one idea built a big country like the united state.

 
At February 15, 2011 at 5:35:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations! May you touched and inspire more lives

 
At February 15, 2011 at 5:46:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a remarkable honor to be given to a naturalized citizen. Thanks to president Obama for recognizing a woman of great virtue.

 
At February 15, 2011 at 5:47:00 PM EST , Blogger eslcoord7 said...

Congratulations! You are definately an outstanding citizen and America is very fortunate that you have chosen US(A)!!! I work at our city's literacy council and have attended the Naturalization ceremony of several people. It just thrills me to see how proud our newest citizens are for what they have accomplished and rather saddens me to realize how few people who were born here do not realize exactly what a blessing they have been given to have been BORN here.
I want to see that documentary sometime!
Sincere good wishes for the best of all things to you!
Maxine Tincher Bell

 
At February 15, 2011 at 5:54:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

An inspiring story. Ms.Weissmann has earned her recognition.Congratulations. May God Bless you as you continue to serve.

 
At February 15, 2011 at 5:56:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations Mama Weissman. Thank you for a great job well done. Yuo have set a good example for all. May God continue to richly bless you and extend your territory. Again Congratulations!!

 
At February 15, 2011 at 6:22:00 PM EST , Anonymous Emeka A. Ujoh said...

Congratulations to Ms Weissmann Klein. That is what America is all about "a land of opportunities for law abiding naturalized citizens". I am inspired by her achievements, who knows, i might someday be in White House to receive a similar award and have my name written in gold. Everything positive is possible in America.

 
At February 15, 2011 at 6:41:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mrs. Weissman Klein,

Why don't you use your influence and caring virtues to spread the word to bankers and lobbyist in the US about the condition in which Americans like you, adopted Americans, are suffering losing their homes, their pensions, their jobs, their businesses and their life's work to the hands of a few and greedy individuals working for the financial sector. That would be nice for a change !!

 
At February 15, 2011 at 6:46:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an inspiring story and inspiration to all of us waiting to be naturalized. Thank you Ms. Weissmann for confirming that we made the right choice to be naturatlized American citizens.

 
At February 15, 2011 at 7:14:00 PM EST , Anonymous Bayardo A Guevara said...

Congratulations Ms. Weissmann Klein for your lifetime achievements as an American by choice--- May God bless you!--- May God bless the USA!

 
At February 15, 2011 at 9:16:00 PM EST , Blogger Iris said...

Mrs. Weissman Klein,
May the Lord Bless you always and this grateful nation who opened its arms to so many, in the spirit of freedom, life and the pursuit of happiness. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your contributions in making our country a better place for all of us.
Luis R. Otero

 
At February 15, 2011 at 9:21:00 PM EST , Blogger How to Maintain Peace by Not Asking Questions said...

Thank you, USCIS, Mr. Alejandro Mayorkas for casting new light on the dimming image of immigrants with honour.

Thank you, Ms Weissmann for lifting higher the most prominent values sought after by those who treasure freedom. You give me hope.

And, thank you, to President Obama for giving congratulations well-deserved.

Victoria Sethunya, SLC, UT

 
At February 15, 2011 at 9:40:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you,USCIS, Mr. Alejandro Mayorkas, for casting a new light ray on dimming immigration news;
Ms Gerda Weissmann Klein for lifting up virtues that bring out the best desires of aspiring immigrants. You give me hope.

And, President Obama, thank you for the well-deserved congratulations.

Victoria Sethunya, SLC, UT

 
At February 15, 2011 at 9:45:00 PM EST , Anonymous Naila Chowdhury said...

Salute to President Obama. Congratulations to Ms. Weissmann Klein for a well deserving outstanding recognition. This has motivated many like us and is truly inspiring for all.God Bless America

 
At February 15, 2011 at 9:50:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

She is a real Lady!

 
At February 15, 2011 at 10:13:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am very grateful with your accomplishments and unselfisheness! Many more will experience the greatness and opportunities that 'Beloved America' and Your Works will extend. God Bless You Ms. Weissman Klein and more strenght in imparting education to all.

 
At February 15, 2011 at 10:20:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank God----for some good news--- this lady who has survived so much and is so thankful to be an American-something most of us take so forgranted. I am happy that the President recognized her wonderful works.

 
At February 15, 2011 at 10:46:00 PM EST , OpenID 59a5beb6-397f-11e0-84e8-000bcdca4d7a said...

CONGRATS TO THIS WONDERFUL WOMAN I'M SO HAPPY FOR HER

 
At February 16, 2011 at 1:18:00 AM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

She is a dedicated women for all over the world

 
At February 16, 2011 at 1:50:00 AM EST , Anonymous Debora Green said...

God bless America and the people who work hard to keep this country with freedom of speech....and congrat's to Ms.Weissman for your lifetime achivements..

 
At February 16, 2011 at 7:03:00 AM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I Would Like to Congratulate Ms. Weissmann Klein for her remarkable lifelong Achievements to Community and Country.MAY THE GOOD GOD BLESS YOU.IN HIS SERVICE from D.Samuel[INDIA] PRESIDENTIAL PRAYER TEAM MEMBER,RELIGIONS FOR PEACE MEMBER,NUCLUER AGE PEACE FOUNDATION[PEACE LEADER]

 
At February 16, 2011 at 8:41:00 AM EST , Anonymous Dr. Pauline E. Wallner said...

Ms. Weissmann Klein: Congratulations on your remarkable accomplishments. Your inspirational journey demonstrates that despite our challenges and tribulations, resilience, faith and hope transcend intolerance. As you embark on the next phase of your journey, may you be continually blessed.

 
At February 16, 2011 at 9:24:00 AM EST , Blogger AYXAR said...

Felicitaciones Sra Weissmann..en este momento estoy por prepararme para hacerme ciudadana de este gran pais..al cual amo,deseo integrarme como parte y trabajar para ayudar a millones de personas,que como yo,llegue a este pais buscando un sueno.Daria con gusto hasta el ultimo dia de mi vida a esta nacion...!cuna de gente trabajadora de todo el mundo.me apego a los principios, de dar lo mejor de nosotros para ayudar a quien mas lo necesite.Si alguien lee este comentario,podria hacerme llegar la forma de integrarme a algun programa donde pueda dar lo unico que tengo y puedo,el deseo de ayudar a quien lo necesite..mil gracias por presentar a personajes tan importantes y humildes que llenan nuestros corazones de fortaleza...mil bendiciones

 
At February 16, 2011 at 12:22:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

congratulation from Djibouti, republic of Djibouti

 
At February 16, 2011 at 1:25:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks to President Obama for such a wonderful recognition, and congratulations Mrs. Weissmann for your courage, hard work, and dedication. May God continue to bless America.

 
At February 16, 2011 at 1:30:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations to you, first, for having survived such a devastating ordeal in your life such as the holocaust! It shows the stuff you are made of. The gift you are giving back to the country you adopted is priceless. How does one imbue natural born citizens with a sense of citizenship when they have never stopped to think about what their country provides them right from birth? God bless you!

 
At February 16, 2011 at 2:04:00 PM EST , Anonymous Guy Joseph (sr) said...

Ms Weissmann has demonstrated the ultimate loyalty by sharing her unique experiences and thereby even encouraging others in such circumstances to do so.
She has earned the distinction by being honoured for
all her sacrifices, and efforts to encourage other immigrants by example.

 
At February 16, 2011 at 6:04:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As many in your generation did, you chose the positive and to give more to those in your life than what you had received during diffcult, perilous times. Your spirit, heart, and dedication is truly inspirational, and humbling to me. It is easy for those of us born in the USA to take for granted the freedoms and advantages we enjoy. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done for your adopted country, and others around the world.

 
At February 16, 2011 at 7:14:00 PM EST , Anonymous PDL said...

Thank you for the inspiration.

 
At February 16, 2011 at 9:35:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulation MS. Weissmann. Very nice, Is nice to see people like her who are proud to be American, who are happy they are here on this land of freedom. I am proud to be an naturalized American myself, Thank God for good people
Magdalena

 
At February 17, 2011 at 1:40:00 AM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing and very inspiring. She's a very blessed woman and America has been truly blessed by her life. I pray so will be my legacy, when I become a citizen of this great country one day.

 
At February 17, 2011 at 8:01:00 AM EST , Anonymous Rob Walker "The Woodworker" said...

This is a great example or recognition for the good deeds. I would like to join in congratulations to Mrs. Gerda Weissman Klein on her lifelong achievements! I'm sure this will greatly encourage others

 
At February 17, 2011 at 1:15:00 PM EST , Anonymous Sonia Cruz said...

Congratulations Mrs Gerda Weissman Klein. God Bless America for having you as one of her naturalized citizens. May all your accomplishments be imbedded in every American heart. May you have a long life for people like you deserves to be on this side of the earth. You are a blessing from God.

 
At February 17, 2011 at 9:33:00 PM EST , Anonymous Peter Mitsis said...

Thank you for your courage and inspiration.

 
At February 17, 2011 at 9:55:00 PM EST , Anonymous Maryanna Quintyne said...

Congratulations Mrs.Gerda Weissman Klein! You so richly deserve it! I wish you peace and blessings my dear!

 
At February 19, 2011 at 1:38:00 PM EST , Anonymous olawale said...

she is a good lady and she has a good work and this to do more in life congratulations to you ............

 
At March 22, 2011 at 12:22:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Johnny Thompson said...

What a remarkable story and life. The US is blessed to have Gerda and we should strive to learn from her life.

 
At June 17, 2011 at 10:32:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Karl Smart said...

Ms. Weissman Klein truly represents what the American Dream used to mean. She came to this Country, made something of herself and GAVE BACK! Hats off to her, what a great lady.

 

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